When we talk about "civic health," we are talking about the relationships and types of interactions ordinary citizens have with each other and with public officials on issues that concern the "public good." In what ways (i.e. civic pathways) and how well we work with neighbors, public officials, and organizations on public issues very much determine the strength of our democracy and resiliency of our communities. So, if, as Eric Liu states in his book The Gardens of Democracy, "society becomes how you behave," then understanding civic health and how we as individuals and groups can nurture and strengthen it is part of the formula for becoming "great citizens."
These teacher lesson plans and the resource list introduce high school students to this important conversation. It is not enough to learn about our democratic institutions--how they work, their values and principles, democratic traditions, etc.. It is important for high school youth to be engaged in this learning through reflective and civic participation with their peers, communities, institutions, and public officials. Only then can they become "great citizens" whose actions become a "civic contagion."
These lesson plans can help teachers engage their social studies or civics students in this discovery:
Lesson Plan 1 is an introduction to "civic health" and its connection to "great citizenship." It helps students learn about how ordinary citizens in Connecticut participate in the public arena by volunteering, voting, donating, working with neighbors and public officials, learning about and engaging on issues, attending public events and hearings, etc. They also get to reflect on what are some of the attributes of "great citizenship," examine their own communities and civic health in Connecticut, and understand the importance of civic participation for making communities and our society better for all.
Lesson Plan 2 is an introduction to Chapter 3 in Eric Liu's book The Gardens of Democracy, which discusses the attributes and value of "great citizenship" for our society and democracy. Students will be able to reflect on and model "great citizenship" in their schools, neighborhoods, and pubic life. By allowing students to explore their connections to others at their schools and communities and adopting a different way of thinking about collective responsibility, this learning can be transformative and imbued with civic agency.
- Civic Engagement Lesson Plan (Part 3)
- Resource list for civics teachers (anywhere in the U.S.)
- Resource list for teaching civics and government in Connecticut